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Public Outcry Leads To Another Delay For McKee's Northside Project

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

An $8.1 billion plan to remake a big chunk of north St. Louis continues to face stiff opposition, four years after it was first made public.

More than 200 people, most of them opposed to the Northside Regeneration Initiative, packed the St. Louis city Tax Increment Financing Commission meeting today urging its members to spike the project completely.

Developer Paul McKee was seeking access to an additional $192 million in tax increment financing, and to lengthen the time he has to complete the work. The project has been tied up in court for almost three years - it finally got the go-ahead from the Missouri Supreme Court in April.

But despite that time frame, speaker after speaker urged McKee to take the project back to the drawing board to get more community input.

"I moved into the neighborhood because I wanted to be a part of it," said James Meinert, who did so four years ago. " I wanted to be a part of the neighborhood and people developing and doing stuff together. I did not move into this neighborhood to have another white man from the suburbs come in and tell us what’s best for us, and to do it for us, and for the city to give him the money that should be coming to the people that are here."

The outpouring of opposition was enough for the commissioners to delay a vote on the incentives until Sept. 11 to "digest" the public comments. It's not clear what impact it'll have on the final vote, but McKee says without the incentives, he can’t make needed infrastructure repairs.

"You hear all the stuff about how poorly the neighborhood is, the streets, and sewers, and everything," he said. "They’re not getting any money out of the city. We’ve stepped up and said, 'we’ll do it, but for the TIF.'”

The incentives will also need approval from the Board of Aldermen, and at least one member, Freeman Bosley, is promising to sit on any Northside-related bill if it comes through the streets committee, which he chairs.  Three other aldermen also spoke up at the meeting.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann


Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.